This week Cedar celebrated 25 years of Cedar’s Children and Young People’s Services at Malone House, Belfast. The event coincided with International Day of People with Disabilities. Chief Executive Stephen Mathews welcomed guests that have accessed, facilitated or supported the service since the 1990s. The entertainment reflected on the journey that families and the organisation have had in relation to the service with a unique video compilation and music from the Fleming Fulton Choir. Festive food was enjoyed by all.

Speaking about the development of Children’s and Young People’s services Trustee Dr. Nan Hill, said:

“In the early Nineties the imminent implementation of the Children Order NI encouraged us at Cedar to think differently about the management and design of services for children and families. The needs of children and young people had to be paramount. We recognized the importance of play and development, integration and inclusion and the need to support other siblings and ensure the welfare of the whole family unit.  Today Cedar celebrates with you 25 years of accomplishments due in no small part to the dedication of staff and volunteers.”

Programmes Cedar has delivered in the last 25 years include: Short Breaks, providing one to one social and emotional support to children with disabilities, autism and brain injury to enable them to develop friendships and access social and recreational opportunities at home or within their local community, whilst providing parents and carers with a regular short break. Transitions, an early intervention service that fully involves the young person and their family to make decisions about their life after school. Youth Services, offering access to a wide variety of activities. Right4U😊 Specialised ASD Services, supporting young people with autism to gain practical experiences to improve their lives and become more independent. Finally, we deliver summer schemes for children and young people with learning and or physical disabilities.

Speaking about his experience on the current Youth Matters programme, Ferris Stephenson, said:  

“My Youth Matters is great. Sure, what’s not to like? We do crafts, watch movies, design gardens, build forts, play Dungeons and Dragons and even pizza!”

Ferris went on to explain how he feels safe and confident at Youth Matters and has developed friendships.

Guest Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, emphasised:

“It is vital that Children and Young People’s rights are safeguarded, and that government implements these rights. Children and Young People with disabilities should not be treated differently, they should have all the things they need, and decisions always must be made with children and young people.”

Kieran Downey, Deputy Chief Executive of Western Health & Social Care Trust, WHSCT discussed how Cedar approached the Western Trust with the question “How can we help?”

He added:

“The relationship between the organisation and Trust has always been a valued partnership.” Talking about the challenges ahead and the development of E-Health technology, Artificial Intelligence and bespoke services he noted: “Cedar adjusts and moves with the times. Thank-you for last 25 years, here’s to the next 25!”

The Fleming Fulton Choir delivered a perfect rendition of Hero, All I want for Christmas is You and Merry Christmas Everyone.

Prof. Maurice Mulvenna, Chair of Cedar Executive Committee, said:

“Without the voices of parents 25 years ago we wouldn’t be here today to celebrate the range of services. There is lots of magic here today.  Thank-you to funders, staff and of course the children for such a wonderful performance.”

If you would like to know more about Children and Young People’s Services, please click here to visit a dedicated page. You can also follow us on social media via Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with current activities children and young people are participating in through Cedar.